Collection of Chinese and Other Far Eastern Art Assembled by Yamanaka & Company, Inc.
The full introduction to the auction catalog.
Collection of Chinese and Other Far Eastern Art
Assembled by Yamanaka & Company, Inc.
Now in process of liquidation under the supervision of the
ALIEN PROPERTY CUSTODIAN
of the United States of America
680 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
846 North Michigan Blvd., Chicago, IL
The American business of Yamanaka & Company, Inc., is now under the supervision and control of the Alien Property Custodian of the United States of America by virtue of the vesting by the Custodian of 100% of the capital stock of the three American stores of Yamanaka & Company, Inc., located in New York, Boston and Chicago.
LEO T. CROWLEY
Alien Property Custodian
IN perusing this brochure, the reader will observe that the vast majority of Oriental Art illustrated and described therein originated in China. On hearing the name of that Flowery Kingdom, the mind of the average occidental is conveyed immediately to the land of mystery, romance, beauty and culture. The Chinese are a rare of creative artisans. China is a country that has carried on its tradition for over five thousand years without any break in its culture, development of art, aesthetic enjoyment and religion. The Chinese possess an inherent artistic consciousness that explains the exquisiteness of their art. They take pride in every opportunity to express their love for aesthetic beauty and think nothing of the patience and toil required to accomplish that purpose. Their daily lives typify an existence lacking completely the turmoil and haste that is so much a part of the activities of the occidental.
During the past fifty years the civilization of the West has made greater strides in its understanding of the philosophy and art of China and its people than in all the preceding ages. At the present time China and the United States of America are fighting for the same international principles, and this democratic comradeship is bringing about in the minds of the American people a closer sympathy for and understanding of China, its people and its great arts of antiquity. The art of China is one of the great arts of the world. It is for that reason that the Alien Property Custodian adopted the policy to liquidate this important collection in an orderly manner so as to give the museums, private collectors and those interested in articles for decorative purposes an unusual opportunity to acquire at substantially reduced prices outstanding examples of Oriental Art from a country that is an important ally of the United States of America.
The articles illustrated in this brochure were selected from this important collection as representative examples of the various branches of Oriental Art involved. It will be noticed that the collection embraces practically every branch of Chinese Art, dating from the Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 B.C.) up to the 19th Century, including archaic bronzes and jades, potteries, stone and wood sculptures, paintings, tapestries, and monochrome and polychrome porcelains. There are also available several outstanding groups of Cambodian, Siamese, Indian, Gandhara and Afghanistan sculptures. The Japanese floor screens, prints, netsuke, inro, ceramics and textiles are exceptional specimens. The collection also includes jades and cultured pearl necklaces, Oriental jewelry, Chinese snuff bottles, as well as a wide variety of modern and semi-antique objects d’art, together with lamps and other items for interior decoration.
We have used extreme care in the preparation of this brochure to insure reasonable accuracy in describing each article. However, it should be borne in mind that in many cases dynasty attributions should be regarded as expressing an idea or a style rather than an exact chronological designation. For that reason the absolute correctness of authenticity of every article cannot be warranted. However, in connection with archaic bronzes and jades it is possible in some cases to give a definite date based on inscriptions, etc. Nevertheless, anyone interested in any of the articles described in this brochure may have the privilege of consulting any authoritative person of his own choosing for further verification of authenticity prior to purchase.
In dealing archaic jades, bronzes and stone sculptures, acknowledgment is given to Dr. Alfred Salmony, Art Director of the New York University, who has collaborated with us in a most cooperative manner.
After you have had an opportunity to review this brochure and will indicate to us the articles that interest you, we feel sure that the FINAL PRICES we shall submit will make it possible for you to acquire the items selected. The articles illustrated are on exhibition in the New York Galleries, but should it be your preference to examine any specimen before purchasing, we shall gladly send it to you on a ten-day approval.
We respectfully solicit your inquiries, which will receive our prompt and careful attention.
ALLEN J. MERCHER
Chairman of the Board
Yamanaka & Co., Inc.
OF THIS BOOK, 10,000 COPIES HAVE BEEN PRINTED BY THE JOHN B. WATKINS COMPANY, NEW YORK
THERE is prevalent in this country just now a great desire for a better understanding of the Chinese, whose history has been recorded for more milleniums than ours has centuries. Even in Marco Polo’s time it stretched back unbroken for 3,000 years. The current liquidation by the Alien Property Custodian of the United States of America of the thousands of examples of Chinese art in divers forms taken over with the huge Yamanaka stock constitutes, along with commercial advantages, an opportunity to get better acquainted with China.
In making the necessary inventory of the stock many rarities, long forgotten in storage, have been uncovered. Likewise, shipments from the firm’s branch houses have contributed to the concentration of goods in the New York store, so that the stock is larger and better now than it has ever been before. Happily this immense stock will be disposed of by “private treaty,” for the Alien Property Custodian realized that dumping such a quantity of rare goods on a limited market not only would have upset trade conditions but would have missed an opportunity for the education in Chinese art that is going to help us understand the Chinese people better.
UNDERSTANDING THROUGH ART
Modern civilization’s beginnings are commonly placed at the start of the Italian Renaissance toward the end of the fourteenth century. Marco Polo’s twenty-year stay in China (1275-1295) had ended a hundred years before. The record of his travels constituted the Western world’s only knowledge of China for nearly two hundred years more.
The Renaissance had risen to its height and had degenerated into Baroque before voyagers began to bring back to Europe distorted stories of China along with strange wares. Since then the West has been learning more and more about China and added knowledge has brought added respect.
It is an axiom that China can best be understood through its art, for China’s art is China’s life. There never has been a time since the dim beginnings of China, maybe 6,000 years ago, when the handiwork of the people has not been artistic. The earliest bits of pottery yet found indicate a native aesthetic sense, which means an instinct for the beautiful. The Chinese laundryman who makes out your ticket places his ideographs on the slip of paper so that he achieves a perfect asymmetrical balance between the characters and the blank spaces. Apparently China started with this sense and has never lost it.
ART AND TIME
Now art is achieved through skill and craftsmanship, either instinctive or acquired, and time is a minor factor. That is why Chinese art began to degenerate after the Western valuation of time was imposed on it. English and American sea captains trading with Canton in the eighteenth century placed orders for Chinese wares, but they must be ready at a certain date, when the captain made a return voyage. This was contrary to Chinese instinct and habit and the ware so turned out was too inferior in quality for use in China. In fact, it was made and decorated on a mass production basis solely for foreign markets and was called Chinese Export Ware. A misnomer, Oriental Lowestoft, has clung to it because the first to arrive in England entered the port of Lowestoft.
Porcelain in the form of Chinese art most commonly recognized in the West and one who has not given thought to it may be somewhat confused at the glib use of Chinese names by collectors, Han, Ming, K’ang Hsi — these seem worse than Greek to the layman. Most people can remember seven names and their dates, however, and to simplify somewhat an entrance to the enchanting realm of Chinese art, especially porcelain and pottery, I should like to call attention to seven eras of Chinese ceramics — seven golden ages.
These are by no means all of the lush periods of Chinese art. The archaeologist’s spade and pick have pierced the crust of rubble and tomb walls which up to the last few years have shut us off from the knowledge of the Shang and Chou dynasties, golden ages also, and the civilization of each is now understood to a remarkable extent. Pottery dating from around 2,500 B.C. has been discovered, however, thus taking us still further back into the “Patriarchal Period,” which has commonly been believed to begin about 4,000 B.C.
Doubtless when archaeology again has a chance to resume its enlightening work we shall find other golden ages in China’s dusky past, the longest continuing civilization on the globe.
GOLDEN CERAMIC AGES
The seven epochs I have arbitrarily picked as golden ages are the names most often heard is connection with Chinese ceramics. Perhaps a table might help:
Han dynasty, 206 B.C. – 220 A.D. K’ang Hsi period, 1662-1722
T’ang dynasty, 618-906 Yung-Cheng period, 1723-1735
Sung dynasty, 960-1279 Ch’ien Lung period, 1736-1795
Ming dynasty, 1368-1644.
The apostrophe in certain names is merely a guide to pronunciation. Without it ch has the sound of j and k the sound of g. Thus the ch in Ch’ien Lung is pronounced as in charity while in Yung-Cheng it is pronounced jeng.
In the Han dynasty the pottery (porcelain was not yet discovered) was mostly made of red clay and a green glaze was common. Somewhere about this time Buddhism was introduced into China and this seemed to have a stimulating effect on all the arts. Painting flourished and bronzes were inlaid with silver and gold.
In the T’ang dynasty Buddhistic art was at its height in China. The pottery was made of finer clay and a greater variety of colors appeared in the glazes. Grave figurines of men and women and of horses and of other animals were made in this age in great numbers, some of unglazed red clay, others glazed in three colors, blue, yellow, green. These were substitutes for the sacrifice of living beings, both animal and human, which ancient custom decreed must accompany the dead into the next world. It is believed that true porcelain, the fine, translucent ware, was discovered in this dynasty.
WONDERS OF SUNG
An age more golden than either the Han or the T’ang was the Sung dynasty. It was a period in China comparable to the Italian Renaissance. Little flourished, the art of painting bloomed forth and many new types of ceramics were evolved. Delicate blue and green glazes were used on the pottery. Crushed strawberry and other hues of red were splashed on a sky-blue ground. White porcelain with cut design, which shows when a piece is held to the light, and many other types of true porcelain were produced. Celadon glaze, the mild greenish gray color, was discovered in this dynasty and the secret of putting crackle in a glaze was learned.
In the Ming dynasty the ceramic arts took a ??? along with a minor renaissance. The famous blanc de chine ware was an outstanding production of this period. The designs on Ming decorated wares had a certain boldness and definiteness of conventionalized form easy to learn. An aubergine color (grayish plum describes it best) was a favorite tint combined with shades of blue from lapis lazuli to turquoise. In the other arts painting had a revival and jade cutting began again to be appreciated.
Names of these eras thus far have been those of separate dynasties. That following the Ming, Ta Ch’ing, beginning in 1644, was the last of the long line of China’s monarchic governments, for it continued until the establishment of the Republic in 1912. Divisions of the Ta Ch’ing dynasty are called periods, after the name of the reigning emperor. Our table includes three of these, the Kang H’si, the Yung-Cheng and the Ch’ien Lung. The bulk of the porcelain collected in the West was made in these three periods.
LATER CERAMIC GLORIES
In the K’ang Hsi period eggshell porcelain was introduced. Great proficiency was attained in single-color — peachbloom, apple green,clair de lune (blue sky after rain), tea dust. The list also includes sang de hoeuf, Imperial yellow and mirror black, Famille verte (really five colors) was an achievement of this period.
In the short Yung-Cheng period the outstanding ceramic accomplishment was a change in the famille verte to the famille rose, a pink glaze. In this period European design had a certain influence on Chinese artists, to their detriment.
The sixty years of Ch’ien Lung, from 1736-1795, were truly a golden age, for the ruler was a man of great culture, highly appreciative of beauty, liberal in his patronage of artists and a great collector. Porcelain making maintained the eminence it had reached in the K’ang Hsi period but its high estate ended with Ch’ien Lung. All the arts flourished at this time. Painting was at a high level and jade cutting reached a degree of skill never before attained.
Porcelain and pottery of these seven golden ages are illustrated in the pages which follow. There are also examples of other periods in the Yamanaka stock as well as representative pieces of the other arts, such as bronzes, jades and sculptures.
BRONZES A PUZZLING ART
One of the earliest and most puzzling forms of Chinese art are the ancient bronze vessels of various types used in the ritual of ancestor worship. The puzzle lies in the fact that the earliest examples found, dating from the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 B.C.) show an art fully developed and a skill completely proficient.
The ornamentation of the earliest bronzes known has little kinship with Chinese design as we understand the term. It is made up of geometric motifs strongly similar to forms found on the archaic pottery of many peoples. With the advent of the next dynasty, however, the Chou (pronounced Jo) the character of the ornament changed and the geometric designs gave way to animal forms, which became more and more elaborate and involved and at the end of the dynasty were almost indistinguishable in a complexity of scrolls and spirals.
Possibly the introduction of Buddhism, which brought into existence a golden age of new things, hastened the disuse of bronze ritual vessels. Anyhow, the art of bronze casting disappeared at this time. Another art which ceased at the same time was that of jade cutting. It was later revived, but the bronze casters’ skill perished with them.
JADES AND PAINTINGS
Archaic jades contemporary with the earliest bronzes have been discovered in China and they, too, had a ritual use. The Chinese have always considered that jade has a mystical quality and sometimes they have ascribed medicinal properties to it. A burial custom was to close each of the nine orifices of the body with a piece of jade and most of the archaic bits collected are of this type.
Jade carving had a recrudescence in the golden age of the Sung dynasty and the art of the jade cutter reached its peak in another golden age, the Ch’ien Lung period, for the emperor was an ardent collector of jade. In this epoch the “paper thin” Tibetan carved bowls and other vessels were first produced.
Those who are attracted to the simplicity and exquisite craftsmanship of Chinese painting find that they have to help out the artist when they look at a landscape, which is not at all a harmful mental exercise. Chinese painting has been called naturalistic, but the naturalism is not the sort to which the Occident has been accustomed. It is there, but it is so subtly expressed that it is only suggested by the painter. The observer has to help supply the likeness or the resemblance.
The painter’s mastery of his medium is so great that the whole scene never appears at one glance. Continued study brings out more and more suggested details. Just as in arithmetic the lowest common denominator results from eliminating many factors, so a Chinese painting is a reduction to lowest terms of the myriad elements in a landscape.
The finest painting is usually attributed to the Sung dynasty but it had another flowering in the Ming dynasty. Earlier examples are in monotone, later in color, but color follows the canons of draughtsmanship and it is never obtrusive.
Sculpture in the Western sense, an independent expression of art, somehow was not general among the Chinese. There are examples in the Yamanaka stock, however, of figurines carved in stone from the Wei dynasty (386-557 A.D.) and the later Sui, T’ang and Sung dynasties. All these periods were after Buddhism came to China and statues are mainly examples of Buddhistic art. In this connection, the stock includes also Khmer, Siamese, Indian and Afghanistan sculptures.
CHINA CAN TEACH US MUCH
I have tried in this sketchy outline to indicate that Chinese art is not really too much for the grasp of any who appreciate beauty and who have regard for skill. China in these seven golden ages has been a nation to which culture was a custom, learning a lamp and beauty the breath of existence. Chinese art in any form is as near perfection as it is possible for human beings to come. It sets a standard and one fine bit of porcelain or bronze or jade in a home at once raises the tone of that home.
Chinese history in its long, unbroken line includes the invention of printing from movable types, the invention of gunpowder for fireworks displays (perverted by Western nations to uses of war) and even the experiment of communism, which, by the way, did not work. The Chinese have revered beauty, they have encouraged learning, they have suffered from adherence to their ethical codes and they have a truer estimate of the value of time than the Western world.
In the time of peace to come the Chinese will want to learn from us what we can best teach — industrialism. It is to be hoped that we shall want to learn from them what they know so well — the value of art in daily living.
CHARLES MESSER STOW
The New York Sun